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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 79999 times)
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« Reply #6165 on: Feb 12th, 2012, 08:28am »

LA Times

Syrian general assassinated in Damascus

The senior military physician is believed to be one of the highest-ranking officers killed in the conflict.
President Bashar Assad's government blames 'an armed terrorist group.'

By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times
February 12, 2012
Reporting from Beirut

A Syrian general was assassinated Saturday outside his home in Damascus, the capital, the official state news service said, as violence continued to rage in the central city of Homs and elsewhere in the country.

Three gunmen waited for Brig. Gen. Issa Kholi and shot him as he left his residence, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

The slain general, a senior military physician who headed a Damascus hospital, was believed to have been one of the highest-ranking military officers killed in the almost year-long conflict.

The government blamed "an armed terrorist group" and said the slaying was part of a pattern of targeted killings of doctors, engineers, professors and other intellectuals. The government has depicted the opposition as a gang of militants seeking to impose their intolerant views on Syria's diverse population through violence.

The assassinated general, said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was a member of an influential family of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect, a small Shiite offshoot, which dominates the security services. The rebellion against Assad's rule is rooted in Syria's Sunni Muslim majority, and the uprising has a pronounced sectarian subtext.

The slain physician, Tabler said, was also a relative of Mohammed Kholi, a former air force intelligence chief under Hafez Assad, the president's father and predecessor.

A spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army denied that the insurgent force was involved in the general's assassination.

"At this point, we need as many doctors as possible to treat wounded Syrians," said Lt. Khalid Hamoud of the Free Syrian Army, reached by telephone in Turkey, where the group is based.

Assassinations, some with sectarian overtones, have been a frequent — albeit relatively little-noticed — component of the Syrian conflict. Each side has accused the other of targeting individuals.

The Syrian government has sought to draw parallels between the current rebellion and an unsuccessful uprising three decades ago led by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni group. The Brotherhood was accused of carrying out a campaign of assassinations targeting university professors and other professionals before the government of Hafez Assad crushed the rebellion.

Elsewhere in Syria, the opposition reported new shelling and clashes in Homs, leaving at least a dozen dead, said the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition network. Nationwide, at least 30 people died in the conflict Saturday, the group reported, including 13 in the southern province of Dara, where the rebellion began with simple protests almost 11 months ago.

Since Feb. 4, the opposition network says, almost 700 people have been killed in Syria, including more than 400 in Homs.

The official news agency reported that authorities "pursued armed terrorist groups" in Homs' Bab Amro neighborhood, which the opposition says has been heavily shelled, causing many casualties. Authorities dismantled explosive charges "planted by the armed terrorist groups in the neighborhood," official news reports said.

Meanwhile, residents of Syria's commercial hub, the northern city of Aleppo, were said to still be reeling from twin car bombings Friday that left 28 dead and hundreds injured in a city that previously had been spared the violence ravaging much of the nation.

"Everything has gone up in price, except for human lives," an Aleppo taxi driver remarked Saturday while driving through the crowded Seif Al Dawle district.

The government of Bashar Assad blamed "terrorists" for the Aleppo bombings, which targeted military and police posts. The opposition denied any role in the attacks and said the Aleppo strikes — like previous bomb blasts in Damascus — probably were set off by the regime in a bid to discredit opponents.

In a fresh move on the diplomatic front, Saudi Arabia was reported to be preparing a new resolution for the United Nations General Assembly condemning the Assad government. But Russia, which joined China last weekend in vetoing a draft Security Council resolution endorsing a plan calling on Assad to cede power, indicated Saturday that it would not vote for any "unbalanced" proposal.

Across the border in Lebanon, authorities reported another day of sectarian clashes in the northern city of Tripoli, where the violence in Syria has resonated in two rival neighborhoods and pitted pro-Assad Alawites against anti-Assad Sunni Muslims. The violence in Lebanon erupted Friday and continued Saturday, when three people, including two Lebanese soldiers, were injured, according to the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-syria-general-20120212,0,1106174.story

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« Reply #6166 on: Feb 12th, 2012, 08:31am »

Defense News

Pakistani Navy to Develop Nuclear-Powered Submarines: Reports
Feb. 11, 2012 - 01:11PM
By USMAN ANSARI

ISLAMABAD — Media reports on Feb. 11 state the Pakistan Navy intends to build nuclear-powered submarines as a matter of priority.

No sources were quoted in the reports, which indicated the first submarine would be operational in five to eight years.

When contacted by Defense News, a spokesman for the Pakistani Navy said he could not comment as to the veracity of the reports.

Mansoor Ahmed, a lecturer at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University who specializes in nonconventional weapons and missiles, believes the reports are the result of a calculated leak by the Navy, and that a message may be being sent to India.

“This news … appears to be some kind of signaling to the Indians seeing as they are taking delivery of a new nuclear-powered submarine from the Russians as well as their own Arihant Class SSBN,” he said.

“So Pakistan is signaling to the Indians that they are mindful of these developments and taking due measures in response.”

Ahmed said he has for some time believed Pakistan was working on a nuclear propulsion system for submarine applications and that Pakistan already has a functional submarine launched variant of the Babur cruise missile.

The Babur cruise missile is very similar to the U.S. BGM-109 Tomahawk, and perhaps derives at least some technology from Tomahawks which crashed in Pakistan during U.S. strikes on al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan in 1998. It can be armed with conventional or nuclear warheads.

Ahmed believes Pakistan is now gearing up to build its own SSN/SSGN flotilla as a way of deterring India and maintaining the strategic balance in South Asia.

However, in the long term in order to fully ensure the credibility of its deterrent Ahmed said he believes Pakistan should build ballistic missile submarines.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120211/DEFREG03/302110003/Pakistani-Navy-Develop-Nuclear-Powered-Submarines-Reports?odyssey=tab

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« Reply #6167 on: Feb 12th, 2012, 08:52am »

Hollywood Reporter

Rupert Murdoch Flying to London to Deal With Crisis at The Sun
7:00 AM PST 2/11/2012
by Mimi Turner

Five top journalists at the newspaper are among eight Saturday morning arrests related to bribery payments.

LONDON -- Rupert Murdoch is facing a new crisis at News International after five senior reporters at his flagship daily newspaper The Sun were arrested in the early hours of Saturday.

The News Corp. chairman and CEO is understood to be flying to London. While one source said the trip was previously planned, Murdoch is expected to spend time with the company's journalists in the U.K. and reassure staff amid concern that the arrests may force the newspaper to be shut down. Last year, the media conglomerate shuttered the News of the World amid the phone-hacking scandal. A police officer, a ministry of defense official and a member of the military were also arrested in Saturday’s swoop.

Neither Murdoch, son James Murdoch, who is chairman of the News International publishing business, nor the newspaper’s editor were informed that the arrests would take place.

The arrests come after four other senior reporters were arrested two weeks ago in a widening probe into bribery payments to the police and other public officials related to the phone hacking. News International’s London headquarters has been raided by police.

The journalists arrested Saturday were thought to be deputy editor Geoff Webster, picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker and reporter John Sturgess, according to a report in The Guardian.

The Sun editor Dominic Mohan said he was “as shocked as anyone” at the arrests but insisted he was “determined to lead The Sun through these difficult times.” He added: “I have a brilliant staff, and we have a duty to serve our readers and will continue to do that. Our focus is putting out Monday’s newspaper.”

In its pages, the paper has yet to allude to the fact it is part of a major corruption inquiry.

A statement from News Corp.’s Management Standards Committee -- the internal group supplying police with evidence for its inquiries -- said the company would remain “committed to ensuring that unacceptable newsgathering practices by individuals in the past will not be repeated.”

"The MSC has provided the option of immediate legal representation to those arrested," the statement added. "The MSC will continue to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to protect legitimate journalistic privilege and sources, private or personal information and legal privilege."

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/rupert-murdoch-flying-london-deal-the-sun-crisis-phone-hacking-289513

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« Reply #6168 on: Feb 12th, 2012, 8:36pm »

Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Feb. 12, 2012
Arab League seeks joint U.N force for Syria
By OMNIA AL DESOUKIE

McClatchy Newspapers

The Arab League voted Sunday to seek a joint United Nations force for Syria as regional diplomats met in Cairo to discuss their dwindling options for stopping the bloodshed in a nearly year-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.

However, the League stopped short of recognizing the main opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council, after objections from some member states about the group's credibility and reach. The council, made up mainly of exiles, had hoped for the same recognition the Arab League extended to a similar Libyan group, whose members went on to lead that country's transition.

Analysts described the request for troops as symbolic but unfeasible.

Syria isn't likely to accept such a force, Russia and China are sure to block it at the UN, and the Syrian opposition is divided on the prospect of foreign boots on the ground. After toothless censures and a disastrous monitoring mission, however, there isn't much else the Arab League can do.

"They seem hopeless," said activist Rami Jarah, who fled Syria a few months ago and is involved with opposition work from exile in Egypt. "Whatever they're doing now should've happened months ago and, the later they are, the higher the expectations."

The Arab League also called for a new monitoring mission to replace an ill-fated observer program that was plagued by internal divisions, ill-prepared or unenthusiastic monitors, government restrictions and several episodes of violence.

The renewed monitoring program is expected to include more sophisticated equipment and better organization. At the meeting, Arab League chief Nabil al-Araby read a letter of support for the expanded mission from officials in Russia, which, with Iran and China, is among Assad's last allies.

The old mission chief, a Sudanese general named Mohamed al Dabi, resigned Sunday. The League proposed Jordanian Foreign Minister Ilah al Khatib, the U.N.'s liaison in last year's Libyan civil war, as a special envoy.

The Arab League's resolution also demands an immediate cease-fire and calls on the government to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from towns and villages.

Syrian television quoted its ambassador to the League as describing its resolution as "a flagrant departure from the group's charter and a hostile act that targets Syria's security and stability," according to a translation by the Reuters news agency.

On Sunday, activists reported four deaths from rocket fire in the rebellious city of Homs, where scores have died in a government offensive this month.

The U.N. said in December that Syrian security forces had killed about 5,000 people since the uprising began. The Syrian government says 2,000 of its forces were killed in the same period. The U.N. has since stopped releasing figures, citing the difficulties in collecting accurate tallies during combat and with severe government restrictions. Most of the front-line news comes from amateur video, which is posted online by activists and is impossible to independently verify.

"I call for decisive measures, after the failure of the half-solutions," Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal told the meeting, according to the Saudi-backed Arabiya channel. "The Arab League should ... open all channels of communication with the Syrian opposition and give all forms of support to it."

Meanwhile, a new video from al-Qaida leader Ayman Zawahiri, the Egyptian physician-turned-militant who took over after Osama bin Laden's death, is raising concern about the involvement of extremists in the armed insurgency against Assad.

U.S. officials said last week that the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida was behind two deadly bombings, and that the group was seeking to exploit the turmoil in Syria to reassert its presence after being eclipsed by the Arab Spring protest movements.

In the video, Zawahiri urged Syrians to take up arms rather than to rely on either the West or "corrupt" Arab governments for their rebellion's success. Assad has long branded the protesters "terrorists" and some opposition members are worried that al-Qaida's endorsement could weaken domestic and international support for the uprising.

"If we want freedom, we must be liberated from this regime," Zawahiri said in the video, which was posted online and translated by wire services. "If we want justice, we must retaliate against the regime."
Diplomacy, sanctions and other international pressure have failed to resolve the crisis, forcing Western leaders to consider seriously some form of intervention, such as the NATO campaign that was vital to toppling Libya's late Moammar Gadhafi.

There is little appetite for such a move, however, with the U.S. in an election year and other nations nervous about the risk of worsening regional instability with a direct attack on Assad's regime. Iran is Assad's main supporter and Syria borders other volatile states such as Iraq, Lebanon and Israel.

More talks are scheduled at a Feb. 24 meeting in Tunisia of the so-called Friends of Syria group, which includes the United States and allied Arab and European nations. The Arab League on Sunday called on Syrian opposition leaders, mainly exiles whose support within the country is unknown, to work out their differences so as to present a more cohesive front at the talks in Tunisia.
"Not gaining (Arab League) recognition makes the Syrian opposition look bad before the Syrian people, but the problem is that events in Syria have gone so far that the Syria opposition is clueless and does look bad," said Jarah, the exiled activist.

(Al Desoukie is a special correspondent. Hannah Allam contributed from Cairo.)

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/12/2638333/arab-league-seeks-joint-un-force.html

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« Reply #6169 on: Feb 13th, 2012, 07:52am »

LA Times


Top Taliban official died in Pakistani prison, movement says
February 13, 2012 | 4:42 am

REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- A top Taliban official has died in a Pakistani prison, the Taliban announced Monday, saying the death occurred almost two years ago.

Mullah Obaidullah Akhund died in March 2010 in Karachi, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement.

Obaidullah had been a senior lieutenant of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the movement’s supreme commander, and served as the Taliban defense minister during their reign over Afghanistan in the 1990s. He was also one of Osama bin Laden’s main allies within the Taliban during the time when the two organizations were closely linked.

Mujahid said Obaidullah’s relatives in his native Kandahar province and elsewhere had been given "credible evidence" of the death and told it was due to a heart attack. But the Taliban spokesman said it was not known whether that was true or there were "tortures in prison."

Mujahid said family members and the Taliban were seeking more information from Pakistani authorities about the circumstances of the death, including why it had been kept quiet for so long.

Reflecting the murky aspects of Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban leadership, there were conflicting reports about Obaidullah’s sojourn in Pakistani custody.

His high-profile arrest was announced in early 2007, coinciding with a visit to the region by then-U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. He was said to have been freed later that year in a prisoner swap, then re-arrested a few months later.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/02/top-taliban-official-died-in-pakistani-prison-movement-says.html

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« Reply #6170 on: Feb 13th, 2012, 07:57am »

The Hill

The Week Ahead: Obama releases budget
By Emily Goodin
02/13/12 05:00 AM ET

President Obama will release his 2013 budget proposal on Monday, setting the stage for the next round of spending battles.

Several members of the administration will travel to Capitol Hill to testify about the proposal — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geither alone is testifying before four different committees this week.

Meanwhile, Obama will visit Northern Virginia on Monday to make his pitch about his plan and he hits the road on Wednesday, traveling to the Midwest and West Coast.

Expect election year politics to come into play with Republicans heavily criticizing the White House proposal. The GOP will release their own spending plan through Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in March.

There are no Republican presidential primaries or debates next week — a rare moment of quiet in that race. Expect the candidates to be campaigning in Arizona or Michigan, which are the next contests, or in the states that vote on Super Tuesday, which is March 6.

Both chambers of Congress are in session and will be debating the $260 billion transportation bill, which is the brainchild of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Also, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said the joint committee working on the payroll tax cut extension needs to reveal its measure early this week. With Congress on recess the week of February 20th, time is running out before the tax cut expires at the end of the month.

Monday, February 13

President Obama will visit Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va., to discuss his 2013 budget proposal.

The U.S. Government Printing Office and the Office of Management and Budget formally release the president’s proposal at 11:15 a.m. at the GPO.

Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffrey Zients, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger, National Economic Council's Gene Sperling, and Domestic Policy Council director Cecilia Munoz hold a press conference at 12:30 to discuss the president's budget proposal.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu briefs reporters on his department’s 2013 budget request at 1:30 p.m. at the Energy Department.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama honor 2011 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal recipients at the White House at 1:45 p.m.

Tuesday, February 14

Obama and Vice President Biden meet with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping at the White House.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on Obama’s 2013 budget proposal. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 215 Dirksen.

Zients testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on the administration’s proposal. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 608 Dirksen.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the 2013 budget request for the Pentagon. The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. in G-50 Dirksen.

Wednesday, February 15

Obama begins a three-day trip to the Midwest and West Coast, heading to Milwaukee, Wis., to talk about his economy plans and then moves on to Los Angeles for campaign fundraisers.

Geithner testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee on the 2013 budget request. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 1100 Longworth.

Zients testifies before the House Budget Committee on the issue. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 210 Cannon.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee on the budget proposal for her department. The hearing starts at 2:30 p.m. in 311 Cannon.

Panetta and Dempsey testify before the House Armed Services Committee on the Pentagon’s budget. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 2118 Rayburn.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on the budget request for his department. The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. in 608 Dirksen.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on the budget request for her department. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 215 Dirksen.

Napolitano testifies before the House Appropriations Committee on the budget proposal for her department. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 2359 Rayburn.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar testifies before the House Natural Resources Committee on the budget request for his department. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testifies before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on the 2012 farm bill. The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. in G-50 Dirksen.

Thursday, February 16

Obama heads to Corona del Mar, Calif., and then on to San Francisco for campaign fundraisers.

Biden heads to Albuquerque, N.M., for a campaign fundraiser and then heads to Los Angeles.

Geithner testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on the 2013 budget proposal. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 608 Dirksen.

Geithner testifies before the House Budget Committee on the issue at 2:00 p.m. in 210 Cannon.

Panetta and Dempsey testify before the House Appropriations Committee on the Pentagon’s budget. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 2359 Rayburn.

Salazar testifies before the House Appropriations Committee on the budget request for his department. The hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. in 2359 Rayburn.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on national security issues. The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. in G-50 Dirksen.

Friday, February 17

Obama’s final stop is Seattle for a speech on the economy and a campaign fundraiser. Then he'll return to Washington.

Biden and Vice President Xi will attend various events in the Los Angeles area.

Vilsack testifies before the House Appropriations Committee on the budget request for his department. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 2362-A Rayburn.

http://thehill.com/homenews/news/210175-the-week-ahead-obama-releases-budget

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« Reply #6171 on: Feb 13th, 2012, 08:03am »

Wired Threat Level

Privacy, Crime and Security Online
Congress Left in Dark on DOJ Wiretaps
By David Kravets
February 13, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: Coverups, politics

A Senate staffer was tasked two years ago with compiling reports for a subcommittee about the number of times annually the Justice Department employed a covert internet and telephone surveillance method known as pen register and trap-and-trace capturing.

But the records, which the Justice Department is required to forward to Congress annually, were nowhere in sight.

That’s because the Justice Department was not following the law and had not provided Congress with the material at least for years 2004 to 2008. On the flip side, Congress was not exercising its watchdog role, thus enabling the Justice Department to skirt any oversight whatsoever on an increasingly used surveillance method that does not require court warrants, according to Justice Department documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

The mishap is just one piece of an ever-growing disconnect between Americans’ privacy interests, and a Congress seemingly uncommitted to protecting those interests.

Pen registers obtain non-content information of outbound telephone and internet communications, such as phone numbers dialed, and the sender and recipient (and sometimes subject line) of an e-mail message. A trap-and-trace acquires the same information, but for inbound communications to a target.

The reports, recently posted on Justice Department website, chronicle a powerful surveillance tool undertaken tens of thousands of times annually by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The reports show that, from 2004 to 2008, the number of times this wiretapping method was employed nearly doubled, from 10,885 to 21,152. Judges sign off on these telco orders when the authorities say the information is relevant to an investigation. No probable cause that the target committed a crime — the warrant standard — is necessary.

The Justice Department, beginning in late 2010, has only published the reports from 2004 to 2009, the year it obtained 23,895 judicial orders to conduct such surveillance. It did not immediately comment on whether the 2010 and 2011 reports have been compiled and sent to Congress, or explain why the mishap occurred.

Internet security researcher Christopher Soghoian recently obtained e-mails via a two-year FOIA process confirm for the first time that Congress was left out of the loop for at least the years 2004 to 2008. Using FOIA, he and others have crowbarred from the Justice Department the reports from 1999 to 2009.

“This is an important surveillance tool,” Soghoian said in a telephone interview. “In addition to showing that DOJ is lazy and not obeying the law, the most notable thing here is that Congress was asleep at the wheel.”

The handful of government e-mails (.pdf) Soghoian obtained confirm for the first time that Congress was left out of the loop for at least the years 2004 to 2008. A law review article suggests the same for years 1999 through 2003.

Soghoian provided the nine pages of e-mail to Wired.

They show that, in September of 2009, a staffer for then-Sen. Russ Feingold sent an e-mail to the Justice Department’s Mark Agrast, the deputy assistant attorney general for legislative affairs. The staffer, Lara Flint, was seeking “the last few” reports for a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Any help you can provide would be much appreciated,” Flint wrote Agrast.

Three months later, Agrast sent them over to Flint only after Agrast had learned from Mythili Raman, who was the DOJ’s principal deputy assistant attorney general for the criminal division, that no reports were filed.

“Although there was an annual reporting requirement, apparently, no one had been actually fling the annual report,” Raman wrote Argast in a December 2009 e-mail.

Agrast did not immediately return a telephone message from Wired seeking comment.

To be sure, even had Congress obtained the data, it’s hard to imagine that it would have mattered.
Consider that the House and Senate punted in May on revising the controversial Patriot Act adopted in the wake of 9/11. Congress extended three expiring spy provisions for four years without any debate.

The three provisions extended included:

•The “roving wiretap” provision allows the FBI to obtain wiretaps from a secret intelligence court, known as the FISA court (under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) without identifying the target or what method of communication is to be tapped.

•The “lone wolf” measure allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of a person for any reason — even without showing that the suspect is an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist. The government has said it has never invoked that provision, but the Obama administration said it wanted to retain the authority to do so.

•The “business records” provision allows FISA court warrants for any type of record, from banking to library to medical, without the government having to declare that the information sought is connected to a terrorism or espionage investigation.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act is the law that requires the DOJ’s pen-register reporting. It turned 25 years old in October.

Another feature of that law had once protected Americans’ electronic communications from the government’s prying eyes, but it has become so woefully outdated that it now grants the authorities nearly carte blanche powers to obtain Americans’ e-mail stored in the cloud, such as in Gmail or Hotmail — without a court warrant.

Congress has shown no interest in amending the law to afford Americans their privacy, despite calls from some of the nation’s largest tech companies and civil rights groups to do so.

In October, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee who had originally sponsored ECPA during the Ronald Reagan administration, promised to hold hearings on ECPA reform before his committee by year’s end. He never called a hearing, despite saying “this law is significantly outdated and outpaced by rapid changes in technology.”

As Soghoian sees it, none of this is surprising.

“Privacy is a hot topic,” he said. “Congress is in the dark.’

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/02/congress-in-the-dark/#more-37601

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« Reply #6172 on: Feb 14th, 2012, 07:25am »

LA Times

Pentagon working with FAA to open U.S. airspace to combat drones

The military says the nearly 7,500 robotic aircraft it has accrued for use overseas need to come home at some point.
But the FAA doesn't allow drones in U.S. airspace without a special certificate.

By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
February 13, 2012, 9:57 p.m.

With a growing fleet of combat drones in its arsenal, the Pentagon is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace to its robotic aircraft.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, the military says the drones that it has spent the last decade accruing need to return to the United States. When the nation first went to war after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the military had around 50 drones. Now it owns nearly 7,500.

These flying robots need to be shipped home at some point, and the military then hopes to station them at various military bases and use them for many purposes. But the FAA doesn't allow drones in national airspace without a special certificate.

These aircraft would be used to help train and retrain the pilots who fly the drones remotely, but they also are likely to find new roles at home in emergencies, helping firefighters see hot spots during wildfires or possibly even dropping water to combat the blaze.

At a recent conference about robotic technology in Washington, D.C., a number of military members spoke about the importance of integrating drones along with manned aircraft.

"The stuff from Afghanistan is going to come back," Steve Pennington, the Air Force's director of ranges, bases and airspace, said at the conference. The Department of Defense "doesn't want a segregated environment. We want a fully integrated environment."

That means the Pentagon wants the same rules for drones as any other military aircraft in the U.S. today.

Robotic technology was the focus of the Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International's annual program review conference in Washington last week. For three days, a crowd made up of more than 500 military contractors, military personnel and industry insiders packed the Omni Shoreham Hotel to listen to the foremost experts on robots in the air, on the ground and in the sea.

Once the stuff of science-fiction novels, robotic technology now plays a major role day-to-day life. Automated machines help farmers gather crops. Robotic submarines scour the ocean floor for signs of oil beds. Flying drones have become crucial in hunting suspected terrorists in the Middle East.

Drones such as the jet-powered, high-flying RQ-4 Global Hawk made by Northrop Grumman Corp. have also been successful in providing aerial coverage of recent catastrophic events like the tsunami in Japan and earthquake in Haiti.

The FAA has said that remotely piloted aircraft aren't allowed in national airspace on a wide scale because they don't have an adequate "detect, sense and avoid" technology to prevent midair collisions.

The FAA does allow exceptions. Unarmed Predator drones are used to patrol the nation's borders through special certifications. The FAA said it issued 313 such certificates last year.

The vast majority of the military's drones are small — similar to hobby aircraft. The FAA is working on proposed rules for integrating these drones, which are being eyed by law enforcement and private business to provide aerial surveillance. The FAA expects to release the proposal on small drones this spring.

But the Pentagon is concerned about flying hundreds of larger drones, including Global Hawks as well as MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers, both made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway.

And last week Congress approved legislation that requires the FAA to have a plan to integrate drones of all kinds into national airspace on a wide scale by 2015.

The Army will conduct a demonstration this summer at its Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, testing ground-based radars and other sense-and-avoid technology, Mary Ottman, deputy product director with the Army, said at the conference.

These first steps are crucial, said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who co-chairs a bipartisan drone caucus with Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). Officially known as the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, the panel was formed in 2009 to inform members of Congress on the far-reaching applications of drone technology.

McKeon also said he was in favor of moving along the process of integrating drones into civil airspace. This came before he was abruptly interrupted by an anti-drone female protester during a speech.

"These drones are playing God," she said, carrying a banner that read "Stop Killer Drones." She was part of a group that wants the end of drone strikes.

Within seconds, hotel security personnel surrounded the woman. She was carried out chanting, "Stop killer drones."

McKeon, who stood silent throughout the brief protest, went on with his speech.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-military-drones-20120214,0,5726973.story

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« Reply #6173 on: Feb 14th, 2012, 07:32am »

Telegraph

Jeans with an in-built 'laptop' computer
14 February 2012

A pair of jeans with a built in computer keyboard has been invented by a pair of computer experts, Erik de Nijs and Tim Smit, from The Netherlands.


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The creation comes with a full-size blue tooth keyboard and also features integrated speakers and a wireless computer mouse.

The duo hand-stitched the prototype trousers - dubbed 'Beauty and the Geek' - which are designed to give the user the freedom to move around and still be in control of the computer.

The invention works using a USB device which plugs into the computer port maintaining a wireless connection.

According to de Nijs the trousers are only slightly heavier than normal jeans and are expected to sell for just over £250 if they make it to the market.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/9081300/Jeans-with-an-in-built-laptop-computer.html

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« Reply #6174 on: Feb 14th, 2012, 07:37am »

Wired Danger Room

Darpa Dodges Obama Budget Death Ray, Keeps Its $2.8 Billion
By Noah Shachtman
February 14, 2012 | 4:00 am
Categories: DarpaWatch

For most of the U.S. military’s far-flung community of scientists and engineers, Monday was a day to pop a Xanax. Not only did the Defense Department announce a cut of more than $2 billion from is research and development budget for next year, but the Pentagon also said it would slow down production of new ships, spy drones, stealth jets, and combat vehicles — leaving a military that’s a bit creakier and older than before, and threatening the funding of thousands in the slide-rule set. Gulp.

But at the Virginia headquarters of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s blue sky (and best-known) science and technology shop, there was no need for anxiety meds. Its $2.8 billion budget was cut a mere $1.4 million dollars — less than a half-percentage point drop. Given the fiscal climate in Washington today, that’s a downright soothing number. And it means you can look forward to a year of superfast missiles, living factories, and military-grade cloud computing.

It’s a testament, in part, to the bureaucratic skills of Regina Dugan, Darpa’s controversial director. Not only has she managed to steer the agency toward Obama administration priorities like cybersecurity and next-gen manufacturing — earning valuable face time with the famously technophilic president in the process. Dugan also won over some military commanders by diverting some of her research cash from long-term projects to immediate, battlefield concerns. And she satisfied some of Darpa’s congressional critics pushing her researchers to pass on their R&D projects to military commands, once they were through.

Most importantly, perhaps, Darpa locked in perfectly with a White House that has put technological innovation as a key to America’s economic recovery.

“I wasn’t in on the end game negotiations, but I did advocate for preserving R&D/S&T department/government wide in a economic down turn,” says Gen. James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who now chairs the defense policy studies program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The reasoning being we will need all the competitive advantage we can muster. The Administration was on board with this and fairly explicit in their support of labs and innovation organizations, the best of which they [the Administration] believe is Darpa.”

Dugan has also reined in some of Darpa’s more free-wheeling tendencies by streamlining the number of projects the agency pursues. In fiscal year 2011, Darpa oversaw 230 separate R&D programs. For 2013, that figure will drop by more than a quarter, to 169.

Research priorities are changing, too. A $52-million-per-year effort to investigate “machine intelligence” has been eliminated. An unspecified “classified” initiative was cut from $107 million to $3 million.

Instead, the agency will invest $50 million to push the envelope on hypersonics — the ability to race through the air at five times the speed of sound or more. It’s key to the Pentagon’s plan to strike any target on Earth in less than an hour.

According to the budget that the agency released Monday, Darpa plans new programs to make computing clouds secure enough for the Pentagon. (There’s that cyber defense again.) It will investigate ways to peer into underground lairs using “acoustic, seismic, electromagnetic, chemical, resistivity, conductivity, lidar, multi/hyperspectral, and gravity/gravity gradient” sensors. (Watch out, Iran.) And the agency will try to create the building blocks for “Living Foundries” — “a revolutionary, biologically based manufacturing platform … leveraging biology to solve challenges associated with production of new materials, novel capabilities, fuels and medicines.”

Sure, the idea of a factory that’s alive seems far out, even a little creepy. But it also sounds like a good fit for a “Halftime America” that’s suddenly seeing some of its dormant factories spring back to life.

video after the jump
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/02/darpa-budget-death-ray/

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« Reply #6175 on: Feb 14th, 2012, 07:44am »

Hollywood Reporter

Levi joins an ensemble cast in the Sony Produced Peter Tolan project.

8:06 PM PST 2/13/2012
by Lacey Rose

Chuck star Zachary Levi is back in lead position.

Mere weeks after his long running NBC dramedy wrapped, the actor has nabbed a starring role in Fox's Let It Go, a spokesperson confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

The half-hour single camera comedy project, which hails from Sony Pictures TV, centers on a married couple: the husband (Levi), his best friend and her sister as they try to navigate, negotiate and sometimes manipulate society’s unspoken rules.

The script is being penned by DJ Nash, with Rescue Me's Peter Tolan and Michael Wimer serving as executive producers.

He joins stars including James Purefoy, Kevin Bacon and Becki Newton with projects in contention at Fox.

Levi is repped by ICM.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/chuck-zachery-levi-star-fox-comedy-290239

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« Reply #6176 on: Feb 14th, 2012, 08:26am »

Happy Valentine's Day.
Thank you for reading Stuff & Nonsense.



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Crystal



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« Reply #6177 on: Feb 14th, 2012, 08:36am »

CERN is turning up the power--over half way to design parameter of 7TeV.....


Large Hadron Collider to Run at 4 TeV Per Beam in 2012

ScienceDaily (Feb. 13, 2012) — CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has announced that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will run with a beam energy of 4 TeV this year, 0.5 TeV higher than in 2010 and 2011.

This decision was taken by CERN management following the annual performance workshop held in Chamonix last week and a report delivered Feb. 13 by the external CERN Machine Advisory Committee (CMAC). It is accompanied by a strategy to optimise LHC running to deliver the maximum possible amount of data in 2012 before the LHC goes into a long shutdown to prepare for higher energy running. The data target for 2012 is 15 inverse femtobarns for ATLAS and CMS, three times higher than in 2011. Bunch spacing in the LHC will remain at 50 nanoseconds.

"When we started operating the LHC for physics in 2010, we chose the lowest safe beam energy consistent with the physics we wanted to do," said CERN's Director for Accelerators and Technology, Steve Myers. "Two good years of operational experience with beam and many additional measurements made during 2011 give us the confidence to safely move up a notch, and thereby extend the physics reach of the experiments before we go into the LHC's first long shutdown."

The LHC's excellent performance in 2010 and 2011 has brought tantalising hints of new physics, notably narrowing the range of masses available to the Higgs particle to a window of just 16 GeV. Within this window, both the ATLAS and CMS experiments have seen hints that a Higgs might exist in the mass range 124-126 GeV. However, to turn those hints into a discovery, or to rule out the Standard Model Higgs particle altogether, requires one more year's worth of data. The LHC is scheduled to enter a long technical stop at the end of this year to prepare for running at its full design energy of around 7 TeV per beam.

"By the time the LHC goes into its first long stop at the end of this year, we will either know that a Higgs particle exists or have ruled out the existence of a Standard Model Higgs," said CERN's Research Director, Sergio Bertolucci. "Either would be a major advance in our exploration of nature, bringing us closer to understanding how the fundamental particles acquire their mass, and marking the beginning of a new chapter in particle physics."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120213172038.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fmatter_energy+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Matter+%26+Energy+News%29
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6178 on: Feb 14th, 2012, 4:10pm »

on Nov 25th, 2011, 8:08pm, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Caption anyone? grin



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Crystal



"Hmm...I wonder if anyone noticed that I failed to fulfill my promise of having GMOs labeled? Dang, I hope not...."



LOL grin tongue rolleyes

~~~

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. Just stopped by to post in the OMF thread today. I hope you're all doing well. smiley


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« Reply #6179 on: Feb 14th, 2012, 4:32pm »

on Feb 14th, 2012, 4:10pm, dove wrote:
"Hmm...I wonder if anyone noticed that I failed to fulfill my promise of having GMOs labeled? Dang, I hope not...."



LOL grin tongue rolleyes

~~~

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. Just stopped by to post in the OMF thread today. I hope you're all doing well. smiley


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LOVELY DOVE!!!!

Hello!!! Thank you for the valentine. cheesy

Crystal
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