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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 76416 times)
Swamprat
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« Reply #6195 on: Feb 16th, 2012, 7:16pm »

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Looking like a hoard of gems fit for an emperor's collection, this deep sky object called NGC 6752 is in fact far more worthy of admiration. It is a globular cluster, and at over 10 billion years old is one the most ancient collections of stars known.

It has been blazing for well over twice as long as our solar system has existed.

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« Reply #6196 on: Feb 17th, 2012, 09:00am »

Beautiful! Good morning Swamprat. cheesy

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« Reply #6197 on: Feb 17th, 2012, 09:07am »

LA Times

Shootout between federal agents kills 1, wounds 1

The shooting in the Glenn M. Anderson Federal Building in Long Beach reportedly involved a dispute between an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and his supervisor. The agent shot his boss and then was killed by another agent.

By Andrew Blankstein, Robert J. Lopez and Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times
February 17, 2012

A confrontation between federal law enforcement agents erupted in gunfire Thursday evening in Long Beach, leaving one dead and another seriously injured, authorities said.

The incident was sparked by an unspecified dispute between Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the Glenn M. Anderson Federal Building near the city's oceanfront, according to law enforcement authorities.

The agency said in a statement Thursday night that one of its agents died at the scene and the other was in stable condition after the shooting. But the statement did not provide details about the incident.

Multiple law enforcement authorities told The Times the shooting involved a dispute between an agent and his supervisor.

The agent opened fire repeatedly on the male supervisor shortly before 6 p.m. in the building, according to the sources, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

With the supervisor wounded, a third agent intervened and opened fire on the gunman, who was pronounced dead at the scene, according to law enforcement authorities. The male agent who killed the gunman was uninjured.

The supervisor was taken by a Long Beach Fire Department ambulance to nearby St. Mary Medical Center, where he was being treated late Thursday.

The scene outside the multistory building at Ocean Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue was marked by confusion as police and federal agents descended on the site. Initial reports from the command post, which were sent to law enforcement agencies, stated that two agents had been killed.

But the agency, known as ICE, issued a brief statement about 8 p.m. saying that one agent had died. The agency did not release the names of the agents involved because family members had not been notified.

The shooting sparked a major response by the Long Beach Police Department, the FBI and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility.

As investigators gathered evidence Thursday night and interviewed witnesses, Luis Martinez watched from a parking lot booth across from the federal building where he works as a cashier.

Drawn by the sound of screeching tires, Martinez said, he walked to the building and saw at least four SUVs stopping outside the main entrance. Then Martinez said he saw several police officers storm in.

"Some people were running out and there were two ambulances in the middle" of the street, said Martinez, 25.

Formed in 2003, ICE is the main investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and has agents across the United States and in dozens of foreign countries. The agents are involved in immigration enforcement, customs inspections, and efforts that target gang members and traffickers who move people and illegal goods into the United States.


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-long-beach-shooting-20120217,0,3324042.story

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« Reply #6198 on: Feb 17th, 2012, 09:11am »

Defense News

France, U.K. to Collaborate on Drone Project: Report
Feb. 16, 2012 - 10:31AM
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS — France and Britain are to launch a joint project to build combat drones during a visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron to Paris, newspaper Les Echos reported Feb. 16.

Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will announce the project during a Feb. 17 summit, the newspaper quoted several sources as saying.

“The project will take the form of a joint letter of intent that will be non-binding but will open the door to the first preliminary studies,” the business paper reported.

“Tens of millions of euros” will be allocated to getting the project off the ground, it said, and the goal is to have a prototype drone ready by 2020.

The project hopes to avoid the “fratricidal European battle” that has opposed the Rafale fighter jet produced by France’s Dassault and the U.K.-backed Eurofighter in bidding for warplane contracts, it said.

Dassault’s Rafale this month won the right to be the sole bidder in a major contract to supply warplanes to India, beating out the Eurofighter consortium and sparking consternation in Britain.

Les Echos said the drone project would be a joint program between Rafale and BAE Systems, noting that it excluded EADS, which “will not be appreciated in Berlin.”

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120216/DEFREG01/302160005/France-U-K-Collaborate-Drone-Project-Report?odyssey=tab

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« Reply #6199 on: Feb 17th, 2012, 09:16am »

Telegraph

Abu Qatada to remain in UK for two years

Hate cleric Abu Qatada could remain in Britain for up to another two years even if a new deal is struck with Jordan, it has emerged.

By Tom Whitehead, Security Editor
1:55PM GMT 17 Feb 2012

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has revealed she is to travel personally to Jordan within days in the hope of securing the necessary assurances that will allow Qatada to be deported.

But even with those guarantees Qatada may be able to launch a fresh legal challenge in the UK courts over any new deal and potentially go back to Europe.

That raises the prospect of another protracted legal battle before he is put on a plane.

However, fresh guarantees may at least allow the Government to secure the extremist’s return to custody while the deportation process continues.

The Government has faced intense pressure to simply ignore a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that has said Qatada cannot be deported because he risks facing trial on evidence obtained by torture.

Even Europe’s human rights chief had admitted that the UK would not face any sanction if it defied the court and simply flew the hate preacher back.

However, it is understood the Home Secretary would rather secure a lasting legal ruling that means Qatada is deported for good.

The Government is also nervous about challenging the original Strasbourg ruling at the court’s Grand Chamber as that would review the entire case again and not just the concern over torture evidence.

Mrs May’s trip to Jordan follows a delegation last week led by security minister James Brokenshire.

The Home Secretary said: “The Home Office Minister for Crime and Security James Brokenshire MP has led useful discussions with the Jordanian authorities and talks with officials will continue.

“The UK and Jordan remain committed to ensuring that Abu Qatada must face justice and are pursuing all options with regard to his deportation and it is my intention to travel back to continue those negotiations shortly.”

Mr Justice Mitting, sitting at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, granted Qatada bail earlier this month because he had been in custody for six and a half years with little prospect of deportation

He was placed under very strict conditions, including a 22-hour curfew, but the judge warned he would review that within three months if no progress wit Jordan or Europe had been made.

Even if Qatada is able to delay his deportation yet further through the courts, ministers may be able to use any new deal from Jordan to either have Qatada returned to custody or maintain the tight restrictions.

The cleric, once described by a judge as Osama bin Laden's ambassador in Europe, is also known as Omar Othman.

He was convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement in terror attacks in 1998 and has featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the Sept 11 bombers.

Jordan want him returned to face a retrial.

Jordan's justice minister, Ayman Odeh, has already promised that Qatada would be given a new and fair trial with no evidence gained from torture.

David Cameron has been under mounting pressure to defy the ruling, including from Baroness Neville-Jones, his own cyber security adviser.

Former Tory Home Office minister David Mellor has described the ruling as a “gnat-bite” that the Government is free to ignore while Conservative backbencher Peter Bone said Mrs May would be a “national hero” if she put Qatada on a plane.

Even Qatada’s own mother has said her son should go home.

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, said the worst sanction that would happen is “someone may file a complaint and there would be a judgment that there’s violation of human rights”.

However, he warned the more significant fall out of such a move would be that it would “send a bad signal” that the UK was happy to ignore judgments.

He said that risked a chain reaction, adding: “It would set a negative example that would be used by other countries in Europe which are less keen on human rights. It’s a serious rulling.”

Mr Hammarberg said Qatada could still be deported with the approval of Strasbourg if the UK can secure “watertight guarantees” from Jordan that he would not be tried with evidence obtained by torture.

“There’s a possibility of having a solution that would respect human rights and make it possible for him to be sent to Jordan,” he said.

“It needs to be more than a statement of agreement from Jordan.”

He suggested one solution would be to have an independent observer from the Council of Europe to monitor any trial.

It emerged yesterday that the landlord of Qatada’s new home had no idea the extremist was living there.

The family were moved to the £400,000 address, which cannot be identified for legal reasons, a few weeks ago and the landlord said he has only now discovered who the tenants are.

He said he understood he was renting the property out to a woman and her four children, for £1,900 a month, and now wants the radical cleric out.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/9088938/Abu-Qatada-to-remain-in-UK-for-two-years.html

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« Reply #6200 on: Feb 17th, 2012, 09:18am »

Hollywood Reporter

Rupert Murdoch: News Corp. Will Pay Legal Fees For Arrested Sun Staff
5:46 AM PST 2/17/2012
by Mimi Turner

LONDON: Rupert Murdoch has told News International staff that he plans to launch the Sun on Sunday and that arrested staff will have their suspensions lifted.

In a high-stakes meeting at the company’s headquarters in Wapping, Murdoch told staff in an email that the new Sunday title would launch “very soon” and that the situation with regards to the internal investigation caused him “great pain.”

Murdoch said staff who have been arrested would still be welcome at the newspaper, and that News Corp. would cover their legal fees.

“We are doing everything we can to assist those who were arrested -- all suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work. News Corporation will cover their legal expenses. Everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise.”

Murdoch went on to try and allay staff anxieties over a situation that has left an unprecedented rift between staff and the parent company.

“My continuing respect makes this situation a source of great pain for me, as I know it is for each of you,” he wrote.

But he said News Corporation would continue to comply with the investigation fully.

“We will obey the law. Illegal activities simply cannot and will not be tolerated – at any of our publications. Our Board of Directors, our management team and I take these issues very seriously.”

“Murdoch entered the headquarters of his East London newspaper group in a silver Range Rover with blacked-out windows to face one of the most difficult crises of his professional life.

Photographers and camera crews from around the world had been waiting since the early morning for the News Corp. boss to make his appearance – he is expected to use the trip to talk to staffers at The Sun, many of whom are all but in revolt at the way their colleagues are now under police scrutiny.

So far 12 former and serving reporters have been arrested. Murdoch has found himself caught between his genuine loyalties for the print media – and for his flagship paper The Sun in particular – and the prospect of a damaging corruption investigation into News Corp.’s foreign practices as more allegations of wrongdoing emerge.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/rupert-murdoch-news-corp-pay-fees-sun-on-sunday-292351

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« Reply #6201 on: Feb 17th, 2012, 09:32am »

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A Griffith University PhD candidate has been highly awarded for his innovative image of the shadow of a single atom.

Ben Norton, from the Kielpinski group in the Centre for Quantum Dynamics, was runner up in the CiSRA Extreme Imaging Competition following extensive work on high resolution imaging.

Run by Canon Australia and CiSRA, Canon Inc.'s Australian research centre, the Extreme Imaging competition aims to promote and celebrate local research at the intersection of imaging and technology.
"Atoms are the building blocks of matter. A human hair is a billion atoms wide," said Professor David Kielpinski, from Griffith's Centre for Quantum Dynamics. "So just manipulating and isolating a single atom is extremely difficult, let alone imaging it.

"Ben has had to use some very special tricks to do both.

"First of all he cools them down, to within a degree of 'absolute zero', the coldest temperature possible (about−273.15 °C), to keep them still. Then he traps them inside an ultra-high vacuum, holding them steady using electric fields. These techniques are very hard, but they have been done before. What is new is how Ben images them.

"To do this he uses a special flat lens made using concentric rings, which was originally developed for lighthouses. These lenses can be made so small and light that they can be put inside the vacuum chamber with the atoms, allowing Ben to collect as much light as possible. This last trick has allowed Ben to take some of the highest resolution images of atoms ever made, including the first ever image of the shadow of a single atom, by measuring how much light is absorbed when the atom is there."

Professor Kielpinski said imaging single atoms is important for understanding not just physics, but also in the new field of quantum computing. "The techniques developed in this project may have other applications too, such as ultra-high resolution imaging of biological cells.

"I really appreciate that this work has been considered worthy of the Canon prize – it's been an amazing opportunity. I am also very grateful for the strong support I have received from my supervisors at Griffith throughout my research there."

Provided by Griffith University

http://pda.physorg.com/news/2012-02-extreme-imaging-science.html

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« Reply #6202 on: Feb 17th, 2012, 10:32am »

Soldiers' Angels K-9 support teams

We are the lifeline of Soldiers' Angels to the U.S. military dog teams, making sure both dogs and handlers have what they need when they need it, whether it be for work or a well-earned break.

Military working dog teams are very special, highly-trained units. The dogs perform important duties such as sniffing out explosives and weapons, chasing down bad guys, and alerting their handlers to danger. A happy dog is a dog that loves his job and does it well, but the dogs can stress out just like their handlers or any other soldier, affecting their job performance. So, we work to help both dog and human have down time, and make sure they know we support them.


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The Soldiers' Angels K-9 Team fully and unconditionally supports these special K-9 teams. Dog and man are serving side by side as partners and friends, and both are our soldiers.

What We Do

The most important thing the K-9 Team does is adopt military dog teams, just like Angels adopt service members through the regular adoption process. That means sending a letter a week and at least one care package a month. The difference is, the care packages are for both the dog and the handler. For example, a package can include a chew toy and treats, or even hygiene items like shampoo or clippers, plus the regular snacks and goodies for a service member.

The K-9 Team also works as a group to raise funds for major canine equipment purchases such as cooling mats/vests, doggles (goggles for dogs), and booties, and develops relationships with local pet shops to get discounts or conduct item fundraisers.

How to Help

To contact the K-9 Team or adopt a military dog team, please email k9team@soldiersangels.org. Please note that in order to adopt a K-9 Team, you need to have had two complete previous "regular" adoptions. You can also send K-9 items to the warehouse in San Antonio to help fill care packages for K-9 teams:

Soldiers' Angels
K-9 Support Team
4408 N PanAm Exprwy
San Antonio, TX 78218

Impact

Thank you and all my love to your organization for the love and support you all have sent to me, my husband, his working dog, and all our soldiers and working dogs here at FOB Warhorse, Iraq. Time goes by, but you all stick in our minds for what you do for us...We have gotten things to make the working dogs smell better, their teeth brighter, books I handed out to my fellow soldiers, letters that just make our days. I love to get them and I love to send them, and I have made some wonderful friends, just wonderful. I adore them...thank you for all you ALL do for us. It takes big hearts from strangers to make all this make sense to us. - SPC Julie

http://soldiersangels.org/k-9-support-team.html

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« Reply #6203 on: Feb 18th, 2012, 08:53am »

LA Times

$100 million in PCP seized
Stunned officials find 130 gallons of the dangerous drug in Los Angeles and Culver City — enough for 10 million doses.

By Sam Allen, Los Angeles Times
11:18 PM PST, February 17, 2012


About $100 million worth of PCP was seized this week in Los Angeles and Culver City in what authorities described as a major bust of a national drug-trafficking organization.

Officials said they found huge amounts of PCP — totaling roughly 10 million individual doses, which in the Los Angeles area sell for between $10 and $20 each — at two local storage facilities and several other locations. Authorities also recovered nearly $400,000 in cash.

Authorities believe the trafficking organization included at least 10 individuals locally and that it was distributing to Texas, New York and Washington, D.C., and other U.S. cities.

"They were shipping and moving and dealing a huge amount of product," said Lt. Scott Fairfield of the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force, known as L.A. IMPACT. "It's the largest PCP seizure I've ever heard of."

Two suspects, Darryl Dwayne Burton and Lagina Bell Huckaby, were arrested Wednesday at a UPS store in Culver City where they were allegedly trying to ship narcotics, Fairfield said. L.A. IMPACT investigators had been trailing the suspects for about a month in response to a tip from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Search warrants were subsequently issued for several locations where a drug ring was believed to be operating, Fairfield said. In the sweep, authorities discovered approximately 130 gallons of phencyclidine, the chemical name for PCP, along with $389,000 in cash, two assault weapons and enough chemicals to produce 500 additional gallons of the narcotic.

Fairfield said Burton is believed to be associated with the Bounty Hunter Bloods, a street gang active in Los Angeles. He described Burton as a "major player" in the trafficking organization, but said investigators are still trying to determine what relationship, if any, existed between the drug operation and the gang.

The search warrants covered two residences in South Los Angeles as well as two large storage facilities, Fairfield said. Authorities found cash and an active drug lab at the homes, and most of the PCP and "precursor ingredients" were found at the storage facilities, he added.

Burton and Huckaby both pleaded not guilty to felony drug charges on Friday. They are being held in lieu of $3 million and $2 million bail, respectively.

Burton, 55, has two convictions for drug offenses, including one for possession of PCP, according to the criminal complaint filed against him. No prior convictions were listed for Huckaby, who is 31.

Experts said the quantity of drugs seized indicates a potentially sizable network involved in the manufacturing and distribution of the PCP.

"You know for sure it's not somebody cooking down in his basement," said John Sullivan, a former chief of detectives for the Las Vegas Police Department. "It must be on a grand scale."

Fairfield said there were "definitely more than two" individuals involved in the operation. "We're still working this," he said. "We're hoping it leads to more and we believe that it will."

Another law enforcement expert, Stan Kephart, said it was difficult to asses the exact value of such a large quantity of PCP because street prices can vary substantially throughout the country. But he expressed shock at the total volume seized.

"PCP is a very scary drug — basically what it does is take people on trips where they don't feel any pain," he said. "I can't even get my head around 130 gallons."


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-pcp-bust-20120218,0,3163952.story

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« Reply #6204 on: Feb 18th, 2012, 08:57am »

Washington Post

Two justices suggest Citizens United ruling should be reconsidered in Montana case

By Robert Barnes, Published: February 17

Two Supreme Court justices suggested Friday that the court reconsider its controversial 2010 decision that allowed unlimited corporate and union spending in elections.

The suggestion came as the court blocked a Montana Supreme Court decision upholding a century-old ban on corporate campaign spending in the state.

The Montana ruling seems squarely at odds with the court’s 5 to 4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited corporate spending. The U.S. Supreme Court majority had said such independent spending did not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.

In Friday’s order, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer said the upheaval in the world of campaign finance since the Citizens United decision does not bear out the majority opinion.

“Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,’ ” Ginsburg wrote.

“A petition for certiorari [from those challenging the Montana court’s decision] will give the court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.”

The U.S. high court’s action Friday does not necessarily mean that it will hear the Montana case; it could later summarily reverse the Montana court’s decision. There is no timetable for such action, but Friday’s stay probably means that corporations will be able to spend money on state and local races in Montana this year.

In Friday’s order, Ginsburg appeared to refer to the vast amounts of money spent by super PACs that have flourished in the aftermath of Citizens United and subsequent decisions by lower courts and the FEC.

Corporations and wealthy individuals have contributed millions of dollars to super PACs supporting individual candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. Altogether, super PACs have spent twice as much on television advertising as have the candidates’ campaigns, according to estimates by Kantar Media/CMAG, an ad tracking firm.

The Montana court’s action has given rise to the first challenge of the Citizens United decision. By a 5 to 2 vote, the state court upheld Montana’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits certain political spending by corporations.

The Montana court acknowledged the conflict with Citizens United, but Chief Justice Mike McGrath said the state was especially vulnerable to “continued efforts of corporate control to the detriment of democracy and the republican form of government.”


http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/two-justices-suggest-citizens-united-ruling-should-be-reconsidered-in-montana-case/2012/02/17/gIQAJ07kKR_story.html?hpid=z3

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« Reply #6205 on: Feb 18th, 2012, 09:02am »

Deadline Hollywood

Reaction To Today’s U.S.-China Film Pact
By NIKKI FINKE
Friday February 17, 2012 @ 8:23pm PST
Tags: Chinese box office, U.S.-China film agreement, WTO

BREAKING… Refresh For latest… U.S. and Chinese negotiators announced an agreement today to significantly increase the number of U.S. films allowed to be shown in Chinese movie theaters and provide a more equitable share of revenue for American film companies. It will put into place a mechanism that will allow over 50% more U.S. films into the Chinese market. The White House is boasting that it’s a “breakthrough” to resolve outstanding issues related to films after the United States’ victory in a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute last year. Immediately walt Disney Company President/CEO Bob Iger hailed the pact: ”China is one of the most populous countries in the world, and this agreement represents a significant opportunity to provide Chinese audiences increased access to our films.” (More reaction below.)

According to WH stats, last year, Chinese box office revenue was up to $2.1 billion. Much of this revenue came from 3D titles. This agreement allows more American exports to China of 3D, IMAX, and similar enhanced format movies on favorable commercial terms, plus strengthens the opportunities to distribute films through private enterprises rather than the state film monopoly, and ensures fairer compensation levels for U.S. blockbuster films distributed by Chinese state-owned enterprises. The agreement will be reviewed after 5 years to ensure that it is working as envisioned. If necessary, the United States can return to the WTO to seek relief.

According to the IFTA, China also has agreed that licensing arrangements should be negotiated on commercial terms comparable with other markets proportional in size. Additionally, the pact encompasses key provisions that are considered standard practice elsewhere, including audit rights, approval of sub-licenses, consultation on marketing campaigns and the ability to designate a choice of law when disputes arise. Moreover, censorship rejection cannot be enforced as a material breach of the Agreement. Instead, the licensor and China’s State-Owned Enterprises will now work together to find a solution when these situations arise.

China has also agreed to affirm that no law or regulations can prevent other Chinese enterprises from actively engaging in the distribution of imported films. In fact, the Chinese government will now promote the entrance of other distributors into the marketplace.

The United States initiated the underlying WTO dispute in April 2007 to address significant market access concerns relating to China’s treatment of films for theatrical release, as well as other cultural products. A WTO panel found in a report issued in August 2009 that key Chinese film import restrictions were inconsistent with China’s WTO obligations. In December 2009, after China appealed, the WTO Appellate Body rejected China’s claims and upheld the panel’s findings. China promised to come into compliance by March 2011, but informed the United States at the deadline that this would not be possible. The two sides have been making efforts to resolve their differences since that time.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden: “This agreement with China will make it easier than ever before for U.S. studios and independent filmmakers to reach the fast-growing Chinese audience, supporting thousands of American jobs in and around the film industry,” said Vice President Biden, who spent the day in the Los Angeles area with Vice President Xi Jinping of China. “At the same time, Chinese audiences will have access to more of the finest films made anywhere in the world.”

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk: “U.S. studios and independent filmmakers cite China as one of their most important world markets, but barriers imposed by China and challenged by the United States in the WTO have artificially reduced the revenue U.S. film producers received from their movies in the Chinese market,” said United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “This agreement will help to change that, boosting one of America’s strongest export sectors in one of our largest export markets.”

MPAA Chairman/CEO Chris Dodd: “This is a major step forward in spurring the growth of U.S. exports to China. It has long been a top priority for the MPAA, and it is tremendous news for the millions of American workers and businesses whose jobs depend on the entertainment industry. This landmark agreement will return a much better share of the box office revenues to U.S studios, revising a two-decade-old formula that kept those revenues woefully under normal commercial terms, and it will put into place a mechanism that will allow over 50% more U.S. films into the Chinese market.”

Independent Film & Television Alliance President/CEO Jean Prewitt: ”For Independents, this agreement is momentous. Our sector has been unable to benefit fully from the existing revenue-sharing importation quotas and has had limited avenues through which to distribute. For the first time, through this Agreement, there is a promise of creating a commercial foundation that will allow independent producers to participate more fully in the Chinese marketplace. In addition to improving the existing revenue-sharing regime, under the terms of the Agreement, China has committed to allowing new local companies to engage in local distribution, to introducing transparency into censorship and importation decisions, and to offering terms and conditions equivalent to comparable markets such as France and Germany. Most importantly, these changes will accelerate the development of a competitive marketplace in which both the U.S. and the Chinese independent film industries can flourish.”

http://www.deadline.com/2012/02/reaction-to-todays-u-s-china-film-agreement/#more-232889

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« Reply #6206 on: Feb 18th, 2012, 09:06am »

Science Daily

Geoscientists Use Numerical Model to Better Forecast Forces Behind Earthquakes

ScienceDaily (Feb. 17, 2012)

Stony Brook University researchers have devised a numerical model to help explain the linkage between earthquakes and the powerful forces that cause them, according to a research paper scheduled to be published in the journal Science on Feb. 17. Their findings hold implications for long-term forecasting of earthquakes.

William E. Holt, Ph.D., a professor in the Geosciences Department at Stony Brook University, and Attreyee Ghosh, Ph.D., a post doctoral associate, used their model to help explain the stresses that act on Earth's tectonic plates. Those stresses result in earthquakes not only at the boundaries between tectonic plates, where most earthquakes occur, but also in the plate interiors, where the forces are less understood, according to their paper, "Plate Motions and Stresses from Global Dynamic Models."

"If you take into account the effects of topography and all density variations within the plates -- the Earth's crust varies in thickness depending on where you are -- if you take all that into account, together with the mantle convection system, you can do a good job explaining what is going on at the surface," said Dr. Holt.

Their research focused on the system of plates that float on Earth's fluid-like mantle, which acts as a convection system on geologic time scales, carrying them and the continents that rest upon them. These plates bump and grind past one another, diverge from one another, or collide or sink (subduct) along the plate boundary zones of the world. Collisions between the continents have produced spectacular mountain ranges and powerful earthquakes. But the constant stress to which the plates are subjected also results in earthquakes within the interior of those plates.

"Predicting plate motions correctly, along with stresses within the plates, has been a challenge for global dynamic models," the researchers wrote. "Accurate predictions of these is vitally important for understanding the forces responsible for the movement of plates, mountain building, rifting of continents, and strain accumulation released in earthquakes."

Data for their global computer model came from Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements, which track the movements of Earth's crust within the deforming plate boundary zones; measurements on the orientation of Earth's stress field gleaned from earthquake faults; and a network of global seismometers that provided a picture of Earth's interior density variations. They compared output from their model with these measurements from Earth's surface.

"These observations -- GPS, faults -- allow one to test the completeness of the model," Dr. Holt said.

Drs. Ghosh and Holt found that plate tectonics is an integrated system, driven by density variations found between the surface of Earth all the way to Earth's core-mantle boundary. A surprising find was the variation in influence between relatively shallow features (topography and crustal thickness variations) and deeper large-scale mantle flow patterns that assist and, in some places, resist plate motions. Ghosh and Holt also found that it is the large-scale mantle flow patterns, set up by the long history of sinking plates, that are important for influencing the stresses within, and motions of, the plates.

Topography also has a major influence on the plate tectonic system, the researchers found. That result suggests a powerful feedback between the forces that make the topography and the 'push-back' on the system exerted by the topography, they explained.

While their model cannot accurately predict when and where earthquakes will occur in the short-term, "it can help at better understanding or forecasting earthquakes over longer time spans," Dr. Holt said. "Nobody can yet predict, but ultimately given a better understanding of the forces within the system, one can develop better forecast models."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120217101058.htm

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« Reply #6207 on: Feb 19th, 2012, 08:39am »

LA Times

Iran halts oil shipments to Britain, France
Associated Press

6:04 AM PST, February 19, 2012
TEHRAN, Iran

Iran has halted oil shipments to Britain and France, the Oil Ministry said Sunday, in an apparent pre-emptive blow against the European Union after the bloc imposed sanctions on Iran's crucial fuel exports.

A statement posted on the ministry's shana.ir website gave no other details, but it follows a flurry of contradictory signals by Iran about backlash against the EU for imposing a boycott on Iranian oil beginning in July. The 27-nation EU accounts for about 18 percent of Iran's oil exports.

Ministry spokesman Ali Reza Nikzad-Rahbar said the suspension posed no problems for Iran.

"We have our own customers and replaced British and French companies with other firms," he was quoted as saying by the IRNA state news agency.

Last week, state media said Iran was planning to cut off oil exports to six EU nations, including France, but later reports said the nations were only told that Iran has no problem finding replacement customers for the European shipments.

The EU sanctions, imposed last month, were part of Western efforts to target Iran's critical oil sector in attempts to rein in Tehran's nuclear program.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fgw-iran-oil-20120220,0,2088013.story

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« Reply #6208 on: Feb 19th, 2012, 08:46am »

Jerusalem Post

Top White House official arrives for talks on Iran
By HERB KEINON AND HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
19/02/2012

US National Security Adviser Donilon to meet with PM; Dempsey: Israeli attack would be "destabilizing"; Clinton, Ashton welcome letter from Tehran expressing willingness to return to negotiations.

US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Sunday evening for talks on Iran, a day after the head of the US military said an Israeli attack now would not be “prudent.”

This will be Donilon’s first visit here as US President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, having replaced James Jones in October 2010.

Jones was the last national security adviser to visit Israel, doing so in January 2010 for talks that also centered on Iran.

The White House issued a statement saying Donilon will be in Israel from Saturday to Monday for consultations with senior officials about a range of issues, including “Iran, Syria and other regional security issues.” The statement said Donilon’s visit was the “latest in a series of regular, high-level consultations between the United States and Israel, consistent with our strong bilateral partnership and part of our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.”

Israeli government officials did not provide any more details regarding the visit by the national security adviser, which, while not rare, is also not routine.

Donilon is the latest in a parade of high-level visitors to both country’s capitals in recent weeks, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Mossad head Tamir Pardo in Washington, and a visit here last month by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Dempsey, in a CNN interview to be broadcast on Sunday, said an Israeli attack on Iran would be “destabilizing.”

“It’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran,” he said, according to an emailed transcript. The US government is confident that Israelis “understand our concerns.

“A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives,” Dempsey said of the Israeli leadership. “I wouldn’t suggest, sitting here today, that we’ve persuaded them that our view is the correct view and that they are acting in an ill-advised fashion.”

He said the economic sanctions imposed on Iran and international pressure are beginning to have an effect, without elaborating.

“We are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor,” Dempsey said. “We also know, or we believe we know, that the Iranian regime has not decided” to make a nuclear weapon, he said.

Netanyahu, during a visit to Cyprus on Thursday, said that while he hoped the international sanctions work, “so far they have not.” The prime minister said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s high-profile “guided tour” last week of the country’s “centrifuge hall” was evidence that Tehran remained committed to continuing its nuclear program.

Donilon’s visit follows Iran’s indication on Friday that it was willing to return to talks, after the world powers leading the negotiations received a formal letter from Tehran to do so.

“We think this is an important step and we welcome the letter,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said following a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Clinton described the Iranian letter as appearing to accept that its nuclear program would be a subject of talks, whereas it has refused to broach the topic in earlier rounds of negotiations.

Ashton, who appeared alongside Clinton at a US State Department press conference, also described the letter as having “no preconditions and a recognition of what we’ll be talking about,” but said that it must be possible to “sustain” new negotiations. Therefore, she said the world powers – the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – “need to set in train the process whereby we can be clear what it is we mean to achieve and what we’re expecting from the Iranians.”

Both leaders said they were still evaluating the letter and formulating their formal response.

Iran’s letter to Ashton, which was obtained by Reuters on Thursday, proposed resuming the stalled talks and said Tehran would have “new initiatives” to bring to the table.

But the brief letter, which responded to a letter Ashton sent to her Iranian counterpart in October, offered no specific proposals, leaving a question mark over Tehran’s willingness to enter substantive negotiations on its nuclear work.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington and its allies would be on guard against any more “false starts” to the negotiation process.

“We’ve had negotiations that started and fizzled, or negotiations that ate up a lot of time and didn’t go where they needed to go,” Nuland said.

“We want to make sure... if we go forward, and a decision has not been made, that it is well-planned, well-coordinated among us and that we’re absolutely clear as a unified group about our expectations.”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said on Thursday that a visit to Iran on Monday and Tuesday by top UN nuclear watchdog officials would help determine whether Tehran was serious about tackling international concerns.

The UN team, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s chief inspector, will again try to extract Iranian explanations, after three years of stonewalling, for an IAEA investigation driven by intelligence reports that suggest Tehran has researched sophisticated ways to build atomic bombs.

Following an IAEA report in November that cast new doubts over Iran’s nuclear work, the United States and the EU adopted sanctions meant to shut down Iran’s oil export industry, the world’s fifth-largest.

The clampdown on Iranian oil is to take full effect in July, and to join an escalating range of UN and unilateral sanctions that Western officials say are putting unprecedented pressure on the Islamic Republic’s economy.

Ashton said the world powers, known as the P5+1, made no headway in their last talks with Iran on the nuclear issue in Istanbul in January 2011.

“The next question really is to look at, then, where we left off in Istanbul,” Ashton said, noting a series of suggested confidence-building measures such as greater scope for inspections.

“We also said at that time they could come forward with their own ideas about what they wanted to do, so that this was a genuine, open process,” she said.

Clinton, however, stressed that “we must be assured that, if we make a decision to go forward, we see a sustained effort by Iran to come to the table, to work until we have reached an outcome that has Iran coming back into compliance with their international obligations.”

Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=258416

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« Reply #6209 on: Feb 19th, 2012, 08:53am »

Raw Story

Growing concerns over Internet data collection feeds privacy fears
By Reuters
Sunday, February 19, 2012 9:44 EST

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – This week’s revelations that Google Inc, Twitter and other popular Internet companies have been taking liberties with customer data have prompted criticism from privacy advocates and lawmakers, along with apologies from the companies.

They are the latest in a long line of missteps by large Internet companies that have faced little punishment for pushing privacy boundaries, which are already more expansive than most consumers understand.

Despite all the chatter about online privacy and the regular introductions of proposed data protection laws in Congress, Silicon Valley is in the midst of a veritable arms race of personal data collection that is intensifying.

Many innovative companies, most prominently Facebook, base virtually all of their services on the ability to personalize, which requires them to know their users well. Their business models likewise depend to an increasing degree on the ability to target a banner advertisement or other marketing pitch to an individual. Millions of times each day, the right to advertise to a specific user is auctioned off in a fraction of a second by computers talking to one another.

For both the buyers and the sellers of the advertising, the business advantage goes to the participant with the most knowledge, and that race is driving companies like Google to learn as much about its users as Facebook does. policies forbade it. On Friday, a Wall Street Journal report showed that Google was tweaking ads on Apple’s Safari Web browser to install tracking cookies which, while commonplace on other browsers, are blocked on Safari unless the user specifically allows them.

Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), co-chairmen of the Congressional Privacy Caucus asked for a Google probe by the Federal Trade Commission, which declined to comment. Google said Friday that its intentions were innocuous but it nontheless dropped the practice. Twitter and Path said they would seek explicit permission before grabbing address-book contents, and Apple said it would update its software to prevent further leaks.

PROMISES, PROMISES

The developments fit what is by now a well-established pattern that has thus far kept major new laws off the books, longtime policy specialists said.

A company over-reaches, gets caught, and promises to do better. If a greater than usual display of outrage prompts introduction of plausible legislation, the industry counters with a new plan for self-regulation, such as the publication of privacy policies that users seldom read.

Sooner or later, the plan is rendered obsolete by new technologies in the data arms race, and the cycle repeats.

Google and Facebook last year both agreed to 20 years of privacy audits by the Federal Trade Commission after they made public customer information that users had considered private. But with few restrictions on data collection, the audits are not likely to have a major impact on business practices.

Internet companies and their investors argue that data-collection is essential to their businesses, and enables them to provide services that would otherwise be impossible. Consumers get more accurate search results, more relevant advertising, and more intimate connections with friends and others when Internet companies know something about them.

“For that value tradeoff, they’re willing to provide information,” said Ron Conway, a well-known Internet investor.

“I don’t like people tracking my location, but I want to know, ‘what are some nearby Italian restaurants that my friends have liked,’” said Auren Hoffman, CEO of Rapleaf, which compiles profiles of Internet users.

The equation is different in Europe, which has long-standing data protection laws that limit some practices that are standard in the United States. The European Union is now weighing updated rules that would allow any resident to ask companies to delete the information on file about them; the United States only has equivalent rights for those under age 13.

Privacy advocates in the United States say they do not expect big changes anytime soon.

“Trying to pass a bill through Congress that’s actually going to safeguard user records, especially when you’ve got huge advertiser lobbies trying to defang that law, is an incredible challenge,” said Rainey Reitman, activism director with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

At best, they say, a law might allow consumers to opt out of some tracking.

“That is more likely today than it was 24 hours ago,” said Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, which gets funding from foundations and major technology companies.

“But the ‘right-to-be forgotten,’ erase-button thing, you would see more of a fight.”

(Reporting by Joseph Menn. Additional reporting by Alexei Oreskovic in San Francisco. Editing by Jonathan Weber and Richard Chang)

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/02/19/growing-concerns-over-internet-data-collection-feeds-privacy-fears/

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